From Publishers Weekly
This unique first-person account offers a window into the mind of a high-functioning, 27-year-old British autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome. Tammet's ability to think abstractly, deviate from routine, and empathize, interact and communicate with others is impaired, yet he's capable of incredible feats of memorization and mental calculation. Besides being able to effortlessly multiply and divide huge sums in his head with the speed and accuracy of a computer, Tammet, the subject of the 2005 documentary Brainman, learned Icelandic in a single week and recited the number pi up to the 22,514th digit, breaking the European record. He also experiences synesthesia, an unusual neurological syndrome that enables him to experience numbers and words as "shapes, colors, textures and motions." Tammet traces his life from a frustrating, withdrawn childhood and adolescence to his adult achievements, which include teaching in Lithuania, achieving financial independence with an educational Web site and sustaining a long-term romantic relationship. As one of only about 50 people living today with synesthesia and autism, Tammet's condition is intriguing to researchers; his ability to express himself clearly and with a surprisingly engaging tone (given his symptoms) makes for an account that will intrigue others as well. (Jan.)
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*Starred Review* Although Tammet is only 27, his autobiography is as fascinating as Benjamin Franklin's and John Stuart Mill's, both of which are, like his, about the growth of a mind. Not that Tammet is a scientist-statesman or philosopher. He is an autistic savant who can perform hefty arithmetical calculations at lightning speed and acquire speaking competency in a previously unknown language in mere days (the latter capability he used to create the Web-based language-learning systems with which he supports himself). More socially competent and independent than the autistic savant famously played by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tammet shares his peers' strong preferences for routine, peace and quiet, private space, and literalness, as well as aversion to chance occurrences, aural and informational noise, and figurative language (despite his arithmetical gift, he can't do algebra; he reads a lot but never fiction). He learned fellowship very gradually and says he couldn't really acknowledge his eight siblings until he grew up. He also writes some of the clearest prose this side of Hemingway; he tells his story with such concentration, precision, and simplicity that his familial poverty, schooling as a "mainstreamed" student, self-realization as gay, and embracing of Christianity prove as enthralling as they are, ultimately, normal. Ray Olson
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